Should There Always Be a Free Lunch?

2009_07_21_DSC04873Image by gwydionwilliams via Flickr

By Anthony S. Policastro

I recently received a comment from a reader named Pepe on my earlier post Would You Pay $26 for an ebook? about the price of ebooks. I was impressed at what he said because he is a reader in favor of the author.

Here is what Pepe wrote:
"I think that 10$ is too much for having a book with drm, indeed for a book with drm I wouldn't pay more than a dollar.

Otherwise, if a get a book at a small price, provided it's without drm, and provided at least more than 50% of the price goes to the author I would pay for it, gladly, even these 10$ if the book really pleased me and is a long one."
He believes at least fifty percent of the book price should go to the author. And he has good reason.
"But this is even expensive, lot of people paying this amount will consider they have the right to give it away freely, and this is not good for the author, so why not sell them really cheap, let say 2 or 3$ and convince people that they should pay for reading it because that way the author will be able to produce more of these books they really enjoyed?

I think this is really possible, there's money for the author, for the online editor and people will be happy knowing most of the money they pay goes to whom really deserves it."
Like many authors, Pepe believes that Internet users should change their mindset in the belief that digital products on the Internet should be free.

Whether you believe it or not, there is a cost to someone to create the book, upload it to an ebook site and promote it so that readers may buy it. The cost may not always be physical, but it is a cost in time - time the author could be using to write the next great American book or just spend thinking of something new to write.

We need more readers like Pepe.
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  1. Well, I certainly agree with you and Pepe. I've been reading ebooks since 2000 and, while I understand there's a cost to maintaining a website, handling credit card transactions, and the author must get his due, etc, I can't understand why I'm supposed to pay as much for an ebook as a tangible book. The tangible book must printed & shipped, warehoused, shipped again, a storefront maintained...With a tangible book, I can loan it out indefinitely, but an ebook I can barely share with my husband and I've lost ebooks when various computers crashed and the different ebook sellers, who promised me my library would always be available, quit handling the ebook sections of their business. Does anyone remember that Amazon sold ebooks long before the Kindle or that Barnes & Noble also sold them? I do, but I no longer have access to those books :(

  2. Hi Jank,
    I agree with you that ebooks should be priced much lower than printed books. (See my post "Would You Pay $26 for an ebook" at

    I think the $9.99 price set by Amazon is a reasonable price for an ebook and now Barnes and Noble has adopted that pricing model for its ebooks.

    Any publisher who believes they will sell ebooks priced near the cost of its printed cousin is living in Disney Land.

  3. Mmm, if e-publishers charged so little for e-books, who's going to pay the staff - assistants, editors, cover artists, website guru who has to make daily changes?

    Who's going to pay the 25.00 fee Fictionwise charges to initally put your book on their site?

    Before B&N came along and curbed the constant sales at Fictionwise, authors were getting the royal screw. During a sale, royalties are not paid on the cover price, but the reduced price.

    What I've seen on the overpricing of ebooks is it's either a hot genre or hot author and they're milking that fact.

    I don't think POD books should be priced as high as they are. Much more than other paperbacks I buy in the stores. I prefer reading paperbacks, but to have to pay 12.99 or higher for a POD is absurd. No wonder sales are low on them. I don't have insight to this, but would like to.